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Checking In On Recent Fire Departures

The Fire lost some important players this offseason

MLS: Preseason Friendly-Tulsa Roughnecks at Chicago Fire Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

The 2019 preseason for the Chicago Fire saw a lot of departures from the first team. From early retirements to just finding opportunities elsewhere, a lot of familiar faces are no longer wearing the Fire Red.

Let’s take a look at those the more prominent ones who left and continued their soccer career elsewhere.

Michael De Leeuw

De Leeuw, also known as “The Lion,” made quite an impact during his first year with the Fire back in 2016. Scoring seven league goals and providing three assists in that uneventful year, De Leeuw quickly became a fan-favorite with the Fire faithful.

For the 2017 season, he saw his role diminished with the arrival of Nemanja Nikolic but he was still able to contribute to the team with his impressive work rate and eight league assists. Sadly, he ruptured his ACL towards the end of the season while playing against NYCFC.

De Leeuw was back in the starting XI a year later and during his second start of the season scored the third goal in a 4-0 rout against Orlando City.

His second honeymoon with the club was short-lived as his option was declined at the end of the season. De Leeuw later returned back to his native Netherlands where he joined FC Emmen.

Jonathan Campbell

Campbell was picked up by the Fire as the 12th pick during the 2016 MLS SuperDraft. He made his debut in the 3-4 season opener loss against NYCFC. Campbell later scored his first professional goal in the 1-1 draw against D.C. United later that season.

Campbell was a decent defender, but as time went on it was clear that Veljko Paunovic didn’t rate him. In his next two seasons with the Fire, Campbell would only have 19 starts compared to 30 in his first.

Campbell was traded to the Seattle Sounders for the fourth round pick in the 2020 MLS SuperDraft. He was later loaned out to their USL team, the Tacoma Defiance, where he saw his first game start earlier this week.

Drew Conner

Conner signed a homegrown contract back in 2015 and was promptly loaned out to the Fire’s then-USL affiliate, St. Louis FC for the 2016 season. Conner was more prominent during the 2017 season where he had 21 league appearance providing one assist. While he wasn’t particularity the best player out on the pitch, he was a useful backup— even playing as a rightback at one point.

Even with the injuries that plagued the team during the 2018 season, Conner saw less playing time and was eventually let go at the end of the season. During the 2019 preseason, Conner was on trial with Minnesota United FC, but sadly he didn’t make the cut.

He took the leap of faith and went overseas to join 1. SC Znojmo who plays in the Czech National Football League.

While Conner has his Czech adventure, let’s all remember this performance of his from last season:

Matt Polster

Out of the ones listed in this article, this departure hurts the most. The Fire picked up Polster during the 2015 SuperDraft. Originally as a defensive midfielder, Polster slowly started to make a name out of himself through his versatility. His defending mixed in with his technical abilities as a defender made him a force out in the pitch.

In the 2017 season, Pauno played him as a rightback where along with Brandon Vincent, became one of the best defensive players in the league.

As a rightback during that season, he had seven assists and one goal.

Unfortunately, Polster suffered an MCL tear during the 2018 season. As a result of Polster being out for nearly five months, the Fire suffered in the back heavily. Pauno had to resort to playing Vincent and Bastian Schweinsteiger as a centerback.

As the 2018 season drew to a close, Polster and the Fire didn’t settle on a deal to extend his contract. He left for Scottish giants Rangers FC where he has yet to make an appearance.

Out of these departures, which one stung for you the most? Let us know in the comments below.